Inter beat Empoli 2-0 in Serie A

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice on Saturday to help Inter Milan beat Empoli 2-0 in the Serie A and record its first victory of the season.

Updated: September 03, 2007 06:53 IST
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice on Saturday to help Inter Milan beat Empoli 2-0 in the Serie A and record its first victory of the season.

Ibrahimovic scored first in the 14th minute when he lost his marker at the back post and flicked Maicon's cross in. He doubled his tally with a diagonal shot off Rodriguez Cesar's pass in the 83rd.

Inter drew its league opener 1-1 at home to Udinese last week. It was also humbled 5-0 in a friendly by FC Barcelona on Wednesday, and lost 1-0 to AS Roma in the Italian Super Cup two weeks ago.

"I'm pretty happy with the performance," Inter coach Roberto Mancini said. "We should have scored again in the first half and we dropped off a bit in the second but I'm pleased overall. We can get better physically."

Inter has four points, while Empoli has lost both its games. The other teams play Sunday or Monday.

The team "had chances to score and we didn't do it," Empoli coach Luigi Cagni said. "This championship will be different from the past one for us but these young guys will allow us to save ourselves (from relegation)."

Empoli placed seventh in the league last season but is unlikely to repeat its best finish following the offseason departures of Sergio Almiron (Juventus), Davide Matteini (Palermo), Stefano Lucchini (Sampdoria).

Inter's title rivals have all started the Serie A season victoriously.

A week ago, newly promoted Juventus routed Livorno 5-1, Roma beat Palermo 2-0, and AC Milan won 3-0 at Genoa.

On Sunday, Juventus visits Cagliari and Roma hosts Siena. Milan faces Fiorentina on Monday, three days after beating Sevilla 3-1 to win the European Super Cup for the fifth time.

Sunday's other second-round games are: Atalanta vs Parma; Catania vs Genoa; Livorno vs Palermo; Sampdoria vs Lazio; Torino vs Reggina; and Udinese vs Napoli.

Slick performance

Inter looked rusty last week, but was much slicker against Empoli.

Ibrahimovic orchestrated most of the Nerazzurri's play and linked well with new strike partner David Suazo, who transferred from Cagliari in the offseason.

Suazo almost scored either side of half time, but was thwarted by Empoli goalkeeper Daniele Balli on both occasions.

Balli parried Suazo's long-range effort in the 44th with an athletic dive to his left. He also blocked the Honduras international's low drive from just inside the area in the 46th.

Inter was also solid defensively, despite missing center back Marco Materazzi, midfielder Patrick Vieira (both injured), and goalkeeper Julio Cesar (suspended).

Cesar's backup, Francesco Toldo, somehow managed to clear Empoli substitute Nicola Pozzi's point-blank header with a reflex save in the 68th. Ivan Cordoba, who partnered Walter Samuel in central defense, also stopped Ignazio Abate's surging run into the area with a tackle three minutes later.

Brazil striker Adriano was not included in Inter's squad for the match at the Carlo Castellani stadium.

He could also be excluded from the club's list of 25 players for this season's Champions League.

"When we hand in the list, you will see what has been decided," Mancini said. "Two of the big names have been left out unfortunately."

Argentina striker Julio Ricardo Cruz is also expected to miss out on European play.

Adriano "has always had my trust even when he has been excluded from games, even now," Mancini said. "I am convinced that he will be able to return to what he was some time ago. We will do our part. If he does his, he will manage it. Otherwise no."

Inter had wanted to loan out the forward but he resisted, saying he either wanted to stay or leave on a full transfer. The transfer market closed Friday.

Adriano has scored 43 goals in 99 appearances for Inter but struggled last season. He scored only five times in 23 games, and was criticized for his social life and for being overweight.

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